I think Andrew Little might have had his first Tony Abbott moment at Waitangi last Friday.
He might have made his first captain's call.
I have liked the look of Little so far. He's looked confident and competent.
He's picked his topics well, his state of the nation address was in front of business, a group he needs to win over badly, and it focused on jobs.
The Government has struggled with jobs.
The economy has been on fire for a number of years now, but we're still stuck at a bit over 5.5 per cent unemployment.
We have major issues joining skills and vacancies, we still let kids out of school ill-prepared and we still have major regional issues around supply and demand.
Before the Global Financial Crisis we had a rate of about 4 per cent, no reason why we shouldn't be back there and you have to think that with the economy ticking over full steam, these are the halcyon days, and if the headline jobless rate is 5.7 per cent having ticked up from 5.6 per cent, then that's what you go after the Government on.
He's also had luck; this week's SkyCity convention centre shambles has handed him free points for at least a couple of weeks.
So, so far so good for Labour's great hope.
Until last Friday.
On Friday for reasons best known to himself and, I am assuming, armed with no warnings from staff about not wandering off-message or making things up, or starting to sound weird, he goes and embraces the concept of self-governance.
A few radicals run the idea up a flagpole, as you do at a place like Waitangi.
The Prime Minister, well versed in dealing with nutty concepts and with a natural connection to middle New Zealand, rejects it all out-of-hand.
But poor old Andrew. Perhaps swept up in the fun and patriotism of the day, not to mention it's his first time there in his new official capacity, decides to tell us all not to reject it, to think about it and have a chat about it.
Separatism, self-governance; it's the stuff of madness. The stuff that sends a country down a path it can't turn back from.
Check any country you want that dabbles in it, and show me the success stories.
There aren't any. From Canada to the United Kingdom to Belgium, cultural and race debates around splitting off, doing your own thing, leaving the mothership, all end in tears.
Or if they don't end, they drag on incessantly fuelled by increasing amounts of vitriol and resentment, and encourage all the other fringe operators who want to join the queue of independence.
What Andrew did so wrong here was, in embracing this sort of thinking and wanting to have a good old chin-wag about it, he automatically distanced himself from the rest of us, or the bulk of the rest of us.
Andrew's job, in case he's forgotten, is to get his party back to the centre. Why? Because that's where the votes are.
The votes have always been in the centre, but sadly for the Labour Party, whether willingly or blindly, they got hijacked and off they wandered to the left, with their ideas on capital gains taxes, and GST on fruit and veges and quotas for minorities.
That got them nine years in the political wilderness, support that plummeted to record lows, and a leadership issue that they've only just, if you've been impressed with Little like me, addressed successfully.
To meander off into the fringe areas you need capital.
John Key has worked this out with his flag debate. God knows why he's so obsessed, but there he is raising it every chance he gets while the rest of us barely conceal a yawn. But he's got six years of good solid economic growth, a mile of support, and that Teflon exterior. So armed with all that, he can indulge in a dalliance or two and get away with it.
Little has no such luxury. He is on watch, and he knows it. I talked to him the other day before he went to Ratana and he referred to himself as having the noose hanging over his head.
So he is well aware that the jury is still out.
So here's my advice. Drop the separatism bollocks, concentrate on the meat and veg. Look at middle New Zealand, look at what drives them, makes them tick, pushes their buttons. And get to know that inside out.
Be aspirational like most middle New Zealanders.
Don't oppose everything for the sake of it, a fault of too many an opposition leader.
Don't listen to the nutters in your party who are so entrenched in that idealogical nonsense that got you that 25 per cent result.
Dare I suggest it ... look at the bloke on the other side of the house that's got the job you want and ask yourself, why did he take the separatism question at Waitangi and dismiss it in a sentence and you didn't.
And don't be embarrassed about doing that, because Key looked at how Clark did it, and learnt from her.
The great operators are always a mix of natural talent and good study.
Little's mistake is not fatal, but if Tony Abbott is a lesson in anything, it's the simple truth that you either get it or you don't, and if you don't the end is never far from now.